Japan-U.S.-ROK Summit: Talks Demonstrate Unshakable Unity to World

The summit meeting between the leaders of Japan, the United States and South Korea can be described as a milestone that demonstrated to the world the unshakable unity of the three countries. The three nations should deepen their security cooperation and work to rebuild the international order.

The trilateral summit was held at Camp David outside Washington. U.S. President Joe Biden invited Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol to the U.S. presidential retreat.

Japan-U.S.-South Korea summits have been held 12 times since 1994 on the sideline of international conferences, but this was the first time for such a conference to be held independently.

Leaders agree to regular talks

The United States, which called for the summit, likely hopes that Japan and South Korea, both U.S. allies, will play an important role in maintaining peace and stability in Asia.

It will soon be 1½ years since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, but there is still no sign of a truce. In Asia, China is gaining power and North Korea is continuing its military provocations. It is difficult for the United States to keep an eye on the entire world and take the lead in maintaining world order.

Japan needs to squarely face the severe international situation and steadily enhance its own defense capabilities while striving to lighten the United States’ burden.

It is noteworthy that the three countries agreed at the latest summit to hold trilateral meetings on a regular basis. In addition to summits, the three nations will meet at the foreign minister-, defense minister- and senior defense official-levels once a year.

Until Yoon broke the deadlock, Japan-South Korea relations had soured over the issue of lawsuits related to former wartime requisitioned workers from the Korean Peninsula. Cooperation between Japan, the United States and South Korea also remained stagnant.

This situation has changed drastically, largely due to the constructive attitude of Yoon, who views Japan as a “partner that shares universal values.”

It is vital to use this summit as an opportunity to bring about multilayered meetings on a regular basis and build a framework for the three countries to work together in the future.

At the joint press conference following the summit, Biden said the three nations will be “bringing our trilateral defense cooperation to an unprecedented level,” adding: “This is not about a day, a week or month. This is about decades and decades of relationships that we’re building.” As the U.S. president stated, cooperation between Tokyo, Washington and Seoul should be raised to a new level.

Regarding defense against North Korean ballistic missiles, Japan and the United States have deployed interceptor missiles on Aegis-equipped vessels and elsewhere, and South Korea has introduced a U.S. missile defense system in the southern part of the country.

The possibility of integrating the operation of such equipment to more effectively intercept missiles will be a topic of discussion for the three countries.

Expanded roles for 3 nations

At the summit, the leaders also agreed to hold regular joint exercises, including anti-submarine drills, involving Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. and South Korean militaries.

It must be ensured that various efforts are steadily made to enhance the effectiveness of deterrence.

The Camp David Principles, a document compiled by the three leaders, stated: “We strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion” and “We reaffirm the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” Although the document did not name any country in this context, these sentences were written with China in mind.

Cooperation between Japan, the United States and South Korea has so far centered on responses to North Korea’s nuclear and missile development. It can likely be said that after the latest summit, the roles of the three countries have expanded to ensuring the security of the entire Indo-Pacific region.

China in effect supports North Korea’s military activities and continues to threaten Taiwan. The three leaders likely judged that the security of the entire region, including the Korean Peninsula, would be threatened if such activities were overlooked.

Economic security figured also on the agenda. The three leaders confirmed a policy of strengthening supply chains for semiconductors and other critical goods.

China, a country rich in mineral resources, has repeatedly engaged in economic intimidation of countries that are in conflict with Beijing, through such means as banning the export of goods. It is highly risky to depend on China for natural resources. It makes sense for Japan, the United States and South Korea to build stable supply chains.

A separate meeting between Kishida and Biden and another between Kishida and Yoon were also held at Camp David.

At the Japan-U.S. summit, the two countries agreed to jointly develop a new type of interceptor missile to counter hypersonic weapons being developed by such countries as North Korea.

Understanding of water release grows

During the Japan-South Korea meeting, Kishida and Yoon confirmed that the two countries will work closely together at the United Nations, as both Japan and South Korea will hold nonpermanent seats on the U.N. Security Council next year.

Bearing in mind the conclusion of the International Atomic Energy Agency that the plan to release treated water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. into the sea is appropriate, Yoon said at the press conference, “IAEA’s investigation results are something that we can trust.”

Some South Korean online media have been spreading false information about the treated water in an attempt to disparage Japan. It is commendable that even in such a situation, Yoon has respected scientific judgments and showed understanding for the water’s release into the ocean.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 20, 2023)